Ballot Questions Analyzed Part 1: Nevada State Question 1

By Erin Lale

There are three ballot questions on our local ballots, a Nevada question, a county question, and a Henderson question. State Question 1 asks voters to allow our state legislature to meet more often if it chooses to do so. Clark County Question 2 asks for higher property taxes for the Clark County School District, and Henderson Question 1 ask for higher property taxes for the Henderson library district.

State Question 1 asks voters to change the Nevada Constitution to allow our State Assembly and State Senate to call themselves into special session. Currently, only the Governor calls special sessions, usually for the purpose of dealing with an emergency situation. The Nevada State Assembly only meets for 3 months every 2 years. The pay of an Assembly-person is a token amount, meant to offset expenses to rent a temporary lodging in Carson City before returning home. The purpose of this arrangement is to have our state legislature be a citizen legislature, meaning that our lawmakers are expected to have real jobs and live most of their lives in the district they represent, so that they can understand the concerns of regular citizens. Allowing the legislature to meet when it wants to, particularly for the stated purpose “to reconsider bills vetoed by the Governor after the adjournment of a regular session” as written in the explanation published by the ballot question committees, opens to door to endless debate on decided issues and endless possibility to legislate outside of the traditional schedule. It is the first step in turning our state legislature into a professional political class which meets constantly. If the state legislature is allowed to meet whenever it wants to, it will not only generate costs associated with its increased meeting schedule, and it will not only pass more laws that cost money and interfere with citizens’ lives and with Nevada businesses’ ability to do business, the legislators will also surely be giving themselves a raise to offset their additional expenses for more travel and lodging and more time away from their real jobs. When they have been meeting continuously for one special session after another for years, they will surely ask the voters to approve a “token” measure to acknowledge the reality that they have become a full time legislature, with a full time regular schedule and full time pay because they no longer have real jobs. Then we will be represented by a full time political class which lives full time in Carson City, away from us and our communities’ concerns. Is that what we want?

There is an old story that goes, a man took shelter from a sandstorm in a tent, and felt sorry for his camel and let it put its nose in the tent so it could breathe. The next night there was another sandstorm and the camel put its whole head in the tent, and so on, and before long the whole camel was inside the tent and there was no room for the man. Let’s not let our legislators be a camel in the tent.